The followed by present participle

I have just had a talk with a friend of mine who argues that it is correct to say
The missing is a child.

I tried to explain to him that the missing would refer to a group of people, but he cited examples of the + present participle which do not refer to a group of objects such as the washing in I have to do the washing.

Does this stem from that fact that in the first case we talk about people and in the second one we do not? Or perhaps I am wrong. If so, please correct me.

BTW, is it correct to say a poor meanig a poor person? [/i]

In English literature I often observed poor thing referring to a person(when you sympathize with a person ) But if you mean poor man in a sense of without money,beggar,it’s better to say a poor man but it’s just my opinion.

The missing is a child. This expression is not so common for me. I look to the missing as the verbal noun :smiley: I’d better say :A(the if it’s a definite child) child is missed" or missed is a child.

The moderators will help you.I just expressed my ideas :smiley:

You are right, Twin, ‘the missing’ refers to a group of people. Therefore, to talk about one individual, I would say: the missing person is a child.

‘The poor’ is a plural noun and means ‘poor people’ as a group. If you refer to one person only, you need to use the word as an adjective: a poor person/man/woman, etc.

‘The washing’ does refer to a group of objects – clothes which are to be (or have just been) washed: the washing dried quickly in the wind. In your sentence “I have to do the washing”, it refers to the act of washing clothes.

Hi Twin

I agree completely with Conchita.

“The missing” = people
“The poor” = people
“The washing” = a single “collective” activity involving many clothes, many motions and a lot of work. :lol:


“a poor” = not possible as a stand-alone noun to refer to “a poor person”

Thank you for your answers.

We cannot say the missing is, but I guess we can say the washing is. My next question is: why? Is this because the former refers to people, whereas the latter does not? What do you think? What is the rule behind this?

Hi Twin

I think you can also take the following things into consideration in attempting :wink: an explanation:

“The washing” is a gerund and was a verb before “deciding” to act like a noun. A gerund describes an activity (or possibly a state). It is grammatically singular. Gerunds can also sometimes be countable and made plural. The plural form would have the usual “s” at the end.

the washing
the cleaning
repeated and furious cleanings :lol:
his writing
his various writings
your cheating
the owing

“The missing” was a participial adjective describing people before “deciding” to act like a noun.
You can sometimes take a general adjective and turn it into a noun in order to categorize or group people who have a particular characteristic in common. This sort of noun is plural. (Nationalities would be an exception in this case.)

the poor
the rich
the missing
the starving
the over-worked
the under-paid

Just my thoughts.


Amy,as far as I know gerund cannot be used with an article :frowning: The missing should be treated as a verbal noun.Am I not right?

That’s a very good point.

Many warm thanks to all those who contributed to the solution.

Hi Pamela

Would you say that “the underpaid” and “the underfed” (e.g.) are also verbal nouns?

If so, wouldn’t that take us right back to the original question? :lol:

Let’s try it this way: One “ing form” :wink: refers to an activity and the other “ing form” :wink: refers to whole lot of people who share a common attribute.


Thanks,Amy, for the irrefragable answer :smiley: